Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Is Behind Las Vegas Review-Journal Mystery Sale

The newsroom is awash with fears about the casino mogul's intentions after his refusal to admit ownership.
Ethan Miller via Getty Images

NEW YORK -- Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate and Republican power broker who spent more than $100 million in the last election cycle, is behind the secret purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, according to the newspaper.

Speculation has mounted for days that Adelson was the primary backer of News + Media Capital Group LLC, a secret group that acquired the Review-Journal and several local papers on Thursday for $140 million. The unusual transaction prompted reporters in the paper's own newsroom, along with others nationwide, to try and solve the media mystery.

While Adelson's camp has refused for days to comment on rumors of the billionaire's involvement, the man himself coyly brushed off questions Tuesday night at his Venetian hotel, site of CNN's Republican presidential debate. He told the network that he had no "personal interest" in the paper.

The Review-Journal reported Wednesday night that Adelson didn't personally buy the paper, but had his son-in-law, Patrick Dumont, orchestrate the deal. Dumont is listed as a senior vice president at Las Vegas Sands Corp., of which Adelson is chairman and CEO. The paper, citing an anonymous source, reported Adelson funded the deal.

The purchase gives Adelson control over Nevada's largest media outlet and raises questions about whether the newsroom will retain editorial independence when covering the gaming industry and politics, given his outsize influence in both worlds.

Adelson is expected to spend upward of $100 million this election cycle, making his endorsement one of the most sought after among Republican hopefuls. On Tuesday, Adelson met with Donald Trump before the GOP debate. Adelson has been said to be leaning toward Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the 2016 election, though he hasn't committed to any candidate.

The high price of the Review-Journal -- $38 million more than the paper and a smaller portfolio sold for in March -- has led to suspicions that the buyer may have a political agenda, given Nevada's role as an election swing state near the front of the Republican primary cycle.

Adelson is known wielding political influence through his media properties. In 2007, he launched a free daily newspaper in Israel, Israel Hayom, which staunchly supports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The paper now boasts the country's highest circulation. In recent years, Adelson has added to his Israeli media portfolio.

The secrecy around the Review-Journal deal and the the newspaper publisher's recent tampering with editorial independence when reporting on the sale have heightened anxiety in the newsroom about the new owner's intentions.

For several days, Review-Journal staffers publicly expressed their frustration on the paper's own editorial page about the secrecy. About two dozen staff members on Monday staged a coordinated Twitter campaign to call attention to the buyer's lack of transparency. Journalists have run into obstacles covering the mystery, with publisher Jason Taylor stopping the presses to remove quotes from the paper's editor expressing concern over the buyer's secret arrangement.

Adelson's litigious history with the press also has been a cause for concern.

Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith wrote in 2013 how Adelson sued him into bankruptcy "over a brief passage" in his book, Sharks in the Desert: The Founding Fathers and Current Kings of Las Vegas. Smith said he had to fight the billionaire while coping with his young daughter's brain cancer. Adelson also has sued the Las Vegas Sun, The Wall Street Journal, and Daily Mail.

"All these years later he’s emerged as the bully of Las Vegas Boulevard," Smith wrote in the 2013 piece, "and he’s still doing his damnedest to give those newsies the shove."

An Adelson representative hasn't responded to HuffPost's requests for comment since Friday.

Michael Schroeder, a Connecticut-based publishing executive who identified himself to the paper's staff as manager of the News + Media Capital Group, declined to comment when reached Monday.

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